Dougal Allan of New Zealand and Yvonne Van Vlerken of the Netherlands defended their 2016 crowns with victories at the 2017 edition of Challenge Wanaka.
Allan overcame a 4:11 deficit after a 5th-best 54:32 swim with a race-best 4:27:37 bike split and a race-best 3:00:18 marathon to finish in 8:26:38, with a 5:22 margin of victory over fellow Kiwi Mike Phillips and 16:12 over third place Luke Bell of Australia.
"I thought whoever was going to win today would have to break the record," Allan told Jo McKenzie Mclean of New Zealand’s Stuff Sport. "The calibre of athletes was just exceptional, especially in the cycling. The field today in the pro men and with the conditions as well, I just knew to win today you had to break the record.”
Allan’s 8:26:38 clocking broke the course record set by Richard Ussher in 2010 by an 8:03 margin. Runner-up Phillips also broke the old course record, by 2:41 margin.
Phillips led the swim and maintained that lead for a third of the bike leg. “I rode in front for around 60km until Luke [Bell] caught up and we rode together until 140km when Dougal came past and just blew it all to pieces,” Phillips told Stuff Sport. “Dougal was just a stronger guy on the day and hopefully I can come back smarter and stronger next year."
Allan, a successful mountain bike racer and adventure racer, was 2nd at the 2015 edition of Challenge Wanaka and won this race last year.
Phillips’ previous best results were a total of four runner-up finishes at half Ironman and 70.3 distances in 2015.
Emma Bilham of Switzerland led the women’s swim with a 54:22 split that gave her a 3:38 to 3:40 lead on top overall contenders Yvonne Van Vlerken of Netherlands and Laura Siddall of Great Britain. After that curtain raiser, the two protagonists took off together to dominate the race. After posting women's-best 4:58:58 and 4:59:29 bike splits and virtually identical transitions, Siddall led Van Vlerken by 6 seconds starting the run.
Siddall held the lead by 20 seconds after 19k, whereupon Van Vlerken charged. At the 25k mark, Van Vlerken passed Siddall and forged a 1:40 lead. At the 33k mark, Siddall stopped the bleeding and maintained her 1:40 deficit. In the final 9k, Siddall made a counter attack and reduced Van Vlerken’s lead to 45 seconds at the 40k mark.
At the line, Siddall had cut her deficit down to 29 seconds but had to settle for second place. After their race long duel, both challengers sat down with exhaustion and congratulated one another.
Pushed to the limit by Siddall, Van Vlerken set a new course record with a 9:15:44 clocking.
Wanaka, New Zealand
February 18, 2017
S 2.4 mi. / B 112 mi. / R 26.2 mi.
1. Dougal Allan (NZL) 8:26:38
2. Mike Phillips (NZL) 8:32:00
3. Luke Bell (AUS) 8:42:50
4. Allistair Caird (AUS) 8:46:43
5. Simon Cochrane (NZL) 8:48:45
6. Simon Billeau (FRA) 8:59:50
7. Adam Wilson (NZL) 9:31:45 * M30-39
8. Sean Ralph (AUS) 9:34:33 * M30-39
9. Arnaud Selukov (SNG) 9:46:17 * M40-49
10. Leon Blackburn (NZL) 10:12:17 * M30-39
1. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) 9:15:44
2. Laura Siddall (GBR) 9:16:11
3. Emma Bilham (SUI) 9:30:39
4. Alyssa Godesky (USA) 9:58:58
5. Simone Maier (GER) 10:03:06
6. Tamsyn Hayes (NZL) 10:08:36
7. Julia Grant (NZL) 10:17:22
8. Bonnie Van Wilgenburg (GBR) 10:38:55
9. Yvette Grice (GBR) 10:35:10 - R 40k
10. Anna Lorimer (NZL) 9:56:59 - R 37.5k * F30-39